Marlborough recycling plant proposed for treated, untreated timber

Vineyard posts being removed to make way for a housing development.

Vineyard posts being removed to make way for a housing development.

A $1 million timber recycling plant may be the answer to Marlborough's knotty vineyard post problem, the council says. 

Disposal of copper-chrome arsenic treated vineyard posts is an ongoing problem in Marlborough, with thousands of old or broken posts stockpiled in the region.

The Marlborough District Council is negotiating with a private company that wants to build a plant to turn treated and untreated timber into charcoal. 

Marlborough District Council solid waste manager Alec McNeil says other timber recycling schemes are "goodwill based".

Marlborough District Council solid waste manager Alec McNeil says other timber recycling schemes are "goodwill based".

The charcoal could be processed and sold locally as coal replacement or overseas as carbon black, used to make industrial products such as car tyres. 

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Council solid waste manager Alec McNeil presented a report to the assets and services committee last Thursday saying the region sent 8000 tonnes of timber to landfill every year.

"We need an industrial solution for the scale of the problem," McNeil said after the meeting.

The council had been working with Waste Transformation Ltd on establishing a pyrolysis plant.

The company would provide infrastructure, the plant, and equipment to the value of $1m, while the council would provide a site with car parking, utility connections and fencing. 

If due diligence was satisfied the council would be entering into a partnership with the company, which would basically be a landlord-tenant relationship, McNeil said. 

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McNeil said there were already recycling schemes in place in Marlborough for treated and untreated timber, such as making furniture, but they were generally "goodwill based". 

If the plant went ahead wood that was reusable could still be sold at the council's salvage yard. 

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said after the meeting the plant sounded like a "great idea". 

"It's not widely spoken about, but there are quite a number of posts out there that need to be recycled on various properties," he said. 

Vineyards had various ways of dealing with the problem but having a centralised option was sensible, he said. 

An issue with untreated timber being used as kindling was sometimes treated timber snuck in, McNeil said. 

After the Christchurch earthquakes some people burned whatever timber they could find, and the arsenic in treated timber ended up damaging steel chimneys, McNeil said. 

"Chimneys would rot out." 

Traces of copper could be found in ash that was used for composting. 

Committee iwi representative Raymond Hunter asked at the meeting whether arsenic would be present in the charcoal, and McNeil said the arsenic would be extracted through the treatment process. 

"[They take] quite a bit of care to make sure that they're not selling products that many prove to be unhealthy," he said. 

The whole process would be subject to a resource consent. 

Vineyards and other businesses wanting to recycle their timber would deliver it to the site as a customer. 

The plant would be built at the Bluegums landfill, at Taylor Pass Rd, and the charcoal would be sold to the Australian market. 

Councillor Mark Peters said he wanted more information about the proposal. 

He asked that deputy mayor Terry Sloan, chief executive Mark Wheeler and chief financial officer Martin Fletcher oversaw the due diligence process before the council entered into a contract.

Once due diligence was complete Wheeler, Fletcher and Sloan had delegated authority to sign a memorandum of understanding with the company. 

McNeil said the council hoped to complete the due diligence process by the end of the year, and it would go back for further discussion in February.  

 - The Marlborough Express


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